Pet owners upset after local clinic refuses to treat dying dog

SEATTLE -- When a local man rushed his sick dog to an Auburn veterinary clinic for lifesaving treatment, he assumed the clinic would help him.

He was wrong.

Don Peters said his 9-month-old boxer, Zooey, had been stung my several bees and had gone into anaphylactic shock. He said the dog collapsed and was dying in his arms.

"It's critical. It's a very critical situation; she needed immediate attention," said veterinarian Dr. Amy Besola.

Peters rushed Zooey to the closest clinic he could find, the Auburn Veterinary Hospital, which has "emergency" signs posted all over it. While he was on his way, Peters' wife, Dr. Linda Petter, called ahead from her office warning the vets that their dog had been stung by bees.

"This is life threatening. You have minutes, you've got to intervene," Petter said.

After telling a clinic worker about her dog's problem, Petter said she was shocked to hear that vets would not be able to treat Zooey.

"She said, 'Well, no our vets are busy.' I said, 'This is an emergency, do something, help.' And she goes, 'No, I'm sorry we can't,'" Petter said.

Peters soon arrived at the clinic with the unconscious dog. He said he begged and pleaded for help, but was turned away.

By the time Peters got Zooey to her regular vet, Dr. Besola, the dog was nearly dead.

"She was laying lifeless here on the table," Besola said.

Anaphylactic shock can cause a patient's throat to swell, ultimately suffocating them. Minutes -- even seconds -- can mean life or death.

The owners of Auburn Veterinary Hospital said they had a room full of regular patients waiting and both their vets were busy. Dr. Besola said in emergency situations, most vets would shift their schedules and respond.

"I couldn't imagine not doing anything within my power to save lives," she said.

Auburn Veterinary officials also said they tried to direct Zooey's owners to another vet but that Peters and Petter were both too frantic

"I guess I was blown away by the fact that nobody seemed to really care," Peters said.

Washington State University operates the region's premiere veterinary school and teaching hospital. The hospital treats thousands of animals each year, and they don't turn emergencies away.

"Basically, anything that comes in our door, we'll at least stabilize it," said the hospital's Charlie Powell.

The law doesn't require taking in emergency cases, but Powell said most veterinary practices do. That's the policy of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

"The ethical guideline is to stabilize and at least get it to definitive care -- stabilize it for transport," Powell said.

In the end, Peters got Zooey to his own vet in time and the dog lived. The couple said they now keep emergency meds within reach in case the same thing happens again.

They're also trying to get the word out to other pet owners to talk to their vet ahead of time to know which animal hospitals will accept pets in an emergency situation.

Since the incident with Zooey, the Auburn Veterinary Hospital has made the decision to change its exterior signs to make it clear that it only takes emergencies after regular daytime hours.